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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 21. Spetember 14, 1950

Says Lecturess Stevens . . . — At VUC, Love Life Lost

page 3

Says Lecturess Stevens . . .

At VUC, Love Life Lost

VUC Debating Society's biggest audience for 1950 (over 100) saw the letter-laden sages of the staff win out by the whole vote after a battle of brains. "The advantages of a university education" were not over-rated for the staff, whose academic prowess helped them through the weaker side of the case.

John Beaglehole, Ph.D. (London), M.A., Joan. Stevens, M.A. (Oxon), M.A. and John McCreary, M.A., faced the unornamented student trio—Maurie Mclntyre, Denny Garrett and Burton Newenham. Both the student audience's vote and the judge's (Rev. Gardener Scott) vote went to the novices.

Union Prize Desalts were announced after the tumult had died.

Chairman J. D. Milburn, no tyro himself, introduced the speakers, and the smooth attack of John Beaglehole lost no time in getting under way as a lecturer, he would make a good con. man. "Hear them, by all means," he said of his opponents, "but take no notice of what they say." Economically, spiritually and politically, the university was useless: graduates were poorly paid; their spiritual education here did nothing more than to "pump them up with bad materialism, like a motor tire, to send them rolling down the hill to perdition." His smooth delivery, his persuasive approach and his exquisitely constructed sentences made him the easiest speaker of the evening. With no mayors and no Prime Ministers among our graduates, we felt indeed unimportant. "Don't come to the university if you wish to become respectable—flee at once." . . . (before the collection? asked an interjector).


Maurie McIntyre looked calmly at Dr. Beaglehole's eternal truths, and proclaimed himself the Reformation—he too, had eternal truth. No graduate a P.M.? Surely this proved the advantage of a university education. He deplored the absence of any standard to judge this over-rating by: the affirmative had given him none, so he set his own—the study of intellectual disciplines. It was impossible to overrate the ideal; and even the present real education couldn't be over-rated. The staff themselves were guilty of under-rating—why, this was the first time they had bothered to co-operate with their students!

This very debate proves the futility of education, proclaimed Miss Stevens, going on nevertheless. N.Z. university education is the world's best, and look at it. "There is a seriousness about these students who stagger up the hill to morning lectures at five to eight, eight o'clock, five past, ten past. . . ." But where does it get them. We should devote the ISS collection to helping Indian students stay away from university.


But she was really worried about women and university. "There are two kinds of women. . .?" she assured an astonished audience. . . . "those who get married and those who don't" (There is a middle course remarked someone). If they marry, then he's bound to be the wrong man—a graduate. Her colleagues illustrated this point. Home Science Grads could at least marry doctors ("free delivery") who were so eligible. Why, we can't even knit in lectures. Women learn nothing at varsity as it simply isn't ordered for their needs. They do learn how to queue, admittedly, but the rest of their education was unfitting (K.B.O'B.: This isn't a corsetry school). The spinsters were even worse off: if they come here as lecturers, they work long hours, they climb the hill—and not even hill money.

"It is surely an unusual situation to see three members of the staff negating their own best, interests," suggested Denny Garrett who commented that he agreed the evening would prove the case—for the negative. Here were three staff members impartially examining their own right to exist: capably arguing a case, which they couldn't believe: being quite derogatory about university staffs. Surely this showed the advantages of university education—the impartial questioning of truths was basic to a university, and the staff were proving that they lacked not in integrity. Their capable argument without real belief proved their fitness for a legal life—no mean advantage: their slighting remarks about graduates was proof of their modesty—another advantage. Since these were the epitome of education, he suggested that they were living refutation of their own case.

Miss Stevens, he said, had dealt with women in general for 12 minutes, he had dealt with one in particular for five years and was by no means so pessimistic about university women. He proved the rest of his case by showing that society in general, students and the public, all under-rated these advantages. He quoted the best possible authorities for his contentions—the two books of one, Dr. J. C. Beaglehole. These showed quite clearly that the society underrated its educated People so much that they were ultimately persecuted (and to the Individual, as he said, it wasn't really such a disadvantage to be persecuted out of existence nowadays).

Now come, come, adjured John McCreary. It's all very well to talk about the university education, but where in fact does it come in? Where on earth was the full rounded personality which he had been hearing about going to develop inside the walls of a university? We were surprised to hear that we were guilty of all sorts of horrible sounding psychological quirks—retroactive inhibition? was it? Anyway it was clear that the roseate gleam of reminiscence when we looked back over past activities at VUC was all a figment of our own imagination.


In what club does the full personality develop? Why, the one place one might expect—the Philosophical Society—he assured us had had to bolster up its attendances with an Alsatian pup! The Debating Society had once flourished: wit and humour had been its marks. Now he saw that these things were only imagination. It had, flourished like the green bay tree; now it was withering ("was that the Alsatian pup?") . . . and there was no health in it. In what department would one get a full rounded personality ("not in the Psychology Department anyway")? The social activities were the best—and the Drinking Horn would at least produce the full man. From the cemetery one might take away impressions which one would carry all one's lives. ("They get round to walking after a while.") Mr. Garrett's impartiality, he said, was in fact gross stupidity—imagine people calmly slitting their own throats. In a dilemma, he left us.

"Dr. Beaglehole has been so impressed with the importance of being earnest that he has forgotten to be John" quoth Burton Newenham in the best crack of the evening. "And Mr. McCreary has slit his own throat and left us to clean up the bleeding mess."

Could anyone seriously deny that the type of education which was represented by von Zeidlitz Was incapable of being over-rated? Certainly there were defects—but still university education was under-rated, not over-rated. He instanced the sort of treatment which graduates in various departments received. We do retain some intangibles from our university life, even when he don't realise this. But the university itself under-rates the advantages of university education. Why otherwise would students have had to have so many debates this year in that "great draughty barn down there?" Why else are the library facilities jammed; the caf. inadequate and the lecture system outmoded? Because the university doesn't realise the true advantages and it doesn't strain to make them capable of realisation.


Speakers from the floor had meat to chew on: Mr. Braybrooke went first to the lion's den: he chose the obvious side. "I am no genius," he platitudinously announced. ("We did think you looked like Mr. Belvedere," commented Mr. O'Brien). "When I was a child the long beards of my town told me if I went to university, I'd go far: I went, but here I am." The lecture system, he epigrammed, is a process of casting imitation, pearls before real swine.

While Mr. Curtin was astounded to hear that Miss Stevens had informed the chairman that there was one more type of woman than he knew about, Mr. Cook proclaimed that he had surveyed the university—from the staff side of the platform, one imagined—and had seen in it too much seriousness ("Had you a mirror there," cut in Mr. Robinson).

Mr. Foy asserted that there were real advantages in university education—the lawyer knew best what he could get away, with; the accountant could cook his income tax returns much better; even for the butchers and trade unions secretaries which the learned doctor had quoted, a doctor for the one or a Jock Barnes with his degree for the other, was proof of the advantage.


Maurice O'Brien had the time extended at 10 p.m.—to allow two O'Briens to speak. He himself supported the students for 50 per cent. of the time and left the rest to his senior partner who, renegging on the staff, proceeded to take the threefold divisions offered by each side and multiply them out—if he had time. By a rapid shift into top gear and much mental skidding around dangerous corners in the argument, he finished in five minutes flat He must be one of the fastest speakers this side of Dunbar Sloane's.

The summing up was all that could follow this high speed forensic arithmetic: and Mr. Mclntyre had to solve Mr. McCready's dilemma before the evening was out. He did so with ease. What, had Miss Stevens found no love life at university? he asked (Mr. O'Brien had earlier wished that Miss Stevens had just been at VUC for her student days). As Mr. Mclntyre argued that he had no case to attack, he felt that the staff had been rather unfair in thus spiking his guns.

Dr. Beaglehole was moved; he was stirred; he was excited. "Almost thou persuadeth me," he said—but was unregenerately on the side of staff still.

Rev. Gardner-Scott (no Portugese he) had a pleasant little story to tell, apart from the summing up of the judge. As a Presbyterian minister, he was one out of the box. He placed Messrs. Newenham, Garrett and Mclntyre in the first places in that order: he told another story, and he ceased his delightful accent too soon.

Chairman Milburn consulted frantically with secretary Curtin: the Union Prize went to Mr. Garrett after the year's aggregate had been totalled—marking the unusual sight of an award going to a speaker who won the prise without winning a debate (six times two appears to make one). Mr. Newenham had been coming up fast into second place.